(source of pic: http://gaudiyahistory.com/)
Bilvamangala Thakura was a wealthy south Indian Brahmin and belonged to a cultured family. But he got attracted to a prostitute named Cintamani. The attraction soon became attachment. And as it happens when we get attached to worldly enjoyment we lose our intelligence and subsequently our dignity. The fire of lust was so intense that he was not at all moved when his father died; in fact standing near the pyre of his father he was engrossed in the thought of Cintamani. The body of his dead father did not bring tears to his eyes but his eyes were eager to see the physical beauty of the lady.
Overwhelmed with the desire to be with her he ran from the funeral pyre of his father towards her house. Cintamani lived on the other side of the river. That day was full of grief; thunderstorm, lightening and heavy rain had created chaos and had over flooded the river. Determined Bilvamangala Thakura hurriedly came near the bank of the river and asked the boatmen to ferry him across the river. The boatmen fearing for their life refused to take him in spite of the lure of money. But just like a moth get attracted to the deadly fire and gets burned ultimately, similarly Bilvamangala Thakura jumped into the deadly river risking his life. Struggling for his life in the river, he got hold of a floating object and desperately grabbed it. It was a putrefied dead body of a person. Using it as a support he successfully crossed the river.
Cintamani’s house was locked, so he decided to climb the wall and enter through the window. He saw a rope hanging on the wall, it wasn’t a rope it was a snake. Blinded by lust, he grabbed it and reached to the window and jumped through it falling on Cintamin’s feet. He had succeeded in his mission to be with his beloved on that dreadful night.
Seeing an uninvited guest jumping through the window in such an hour of the night Cintamani was frightened. Bilvamangala Thakura had hoped that seeing him she will be happy but in fact the lady was disgusted seeing a stinking lusty man who had come to meet her on the day when his father had died. Rebuking him she said, “What a shame that you have so much attraction for my physical body which is made of flesh, bones, blood, mucus, stool and other such obnoxious substances. This body rots every day and ultimately becomes food for the worms. Your attraction for this temporary body is not going to do any good to you. Instead if you have the same attachment for Krishna then your life would be successful; it will deliver you from all the miseries of material existence and give you an opportunity to join Krishna in his eternal abode thus giving you eternal happiness.
Being rebuked, humiliated and thrown out from her house, he came to his senses. He understood the futility of attachment for flesh which weakens ones heart. He took a decision to devote his life to Krishna and take shelter of his lotus feet. Remembering and chanting the names of the Supreme Lord he marched towards Vrindavan. But as it is said that old habits die hard and sinful tendencies are not easy to give up.
Bilvamangala Thakura’s weakness was lust and so Maya attacked him again in the form of a woman. On his way to Vrindavan, he saw a woman and got captivated by her beauty. Shackled by lust he followed her to her house. He knocked at the door; a very sober man came out. Seeing a guest donning a devotee’s attire pleased him, he thought his guest to be a chaste devotee of the Lord and so he wanted to serve him at any cost. When the pious and gentle man inquired from him as how can he serve him, Bilvamangala Thakura took a promise from him that he would fulfil his desire. Eager to serve a devotee of the Lord he gave his word but to his utter shock, disbelief and dismay Bilvamangala Thakura asked him to leave him alone with his wife. Bound by his words and with tears in his eyes he told his wife about the nefarious proposal of his guest disguised as a devotee. Bilvamangala was left alone in the room with the lady. With a choking voice, Bilvamangala said, “Mother, can I have your hairpin.” He took the hairpin and to the lady’s utter shock, he immediately gouged both his eyes using the hairpin. Falling at the feet of the lady and her husband, he begged for forgiveness. He plucked his eyes to make sure that for the rest of his life he will never be seeing and nor getting enticed towards any form of opposite sex.
Bilvamangala Thakura was now although physically blind but was spiritually awakened. Life’s experience had taught him that lust can never be satiated but this disease aggravates as soon as one makes an endeavour to give in to lusty desires and thoughts. From there he went to Vrindavan without getting distracted anymore. He had become so sincere in his devotion that life’s each moment he used in worshipping the Supreme Lord. His genuine devotion attracted Krishna. In fact Krishna as a cowherd boy would come to meet him regularly carrying a glass of milk which he would give to him. Bilvamangala Thakura did not know that the Supreme Lord was personally coming to see him. They both would speak with each other for hours. Once when Krishna played his flute Bilvamangala Thakura was captivated by it and he wanted to embrace Krishna. Krishna playfully escaped his embrace. The great devotee of the Lord said you can escape from my hold but not from my heart. Once Bilvamangala Thakura’s heart was flooded with lusty desires but with his determined devotion he had cleansed his heart and had now enthroned Krishna in his heart.
Although his past wasn’t glorious but Krishna wasn’t bothered about his previous background. In this world once a person is caught doing something abominable he is condemned and abandoned by all forever. But Krishna is magnanimous and forgiving and is least interested in unearthing our previous sins. As soon as he sees that our intentions are pure and we are genuinely striving to purify our life he is eager to accept us and take us back to the spiritual world.
In Gita 16.21 and 16.22, Krishna tells that lust is a gateway to hell and those who can escape from it attains Supreme Destination. Lust binds us to this material world but love for the Lord liberates us. Bilvamangala Thakura was able to achieve Krishna only after his heart got thoroughly cleansed of all lusty desires. So to attain love of Krishna it is essential that we guard ourselves against the onslaught of lust and do not succumb to it.
(Published in Dandavats.com: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=20436)